Advances in Gardening Series: Thoughts on The Fan, and the problems of overabudance

The Fan late in the season, about to be pulled out. See earlier photos of The Fan here. Mrs. Homegrown here: Last fall we dug up a sort of feral herb bed and replaced it with a more formal, three-part bed that I call The Fan. The idea is to use this bed to plant annual herbs and flowers. While some of these plants are medicinal, it is also a bed dedicated more to aesthetics than the rest of our garden, so it’s also a place where I...

Continue reading…

Why We Travel By Train

Amtrak ain’t this grand, but it’s a lot better than flying! Photo via the Library of Congress. We’re headed up to Northern California, Oregon and Washington to promote our new book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World . And, with the exception of the San Francisco to Seattle leg, we’re traveling by train. Why do this when it’s more expensive, time consuming and probably makes our dear publis...

Continue reading…

Nettle Harvest

Homegrown Neighbor here: Stinging nettle- Urtica dioica is a both a beloved and hated plant. Yes, it does sting. The stem and leaf edges are covered in stinging hairs. It can be rather painful. But it has been used as a food and medicine plant dating back at least to ancient Rome. Interestingly, if you sting an inflamed or painful area of the body with nettle, it has been shown to decrease the pain. Mr. Homegrown has also written about nettles...

Continue reading…

Make a Spore Print

Making a mushroom spore print is a fun activity for the kidlings and it’s simple: 1. Pick a mushroom (from the wild or the supermarket) and break off the stem. 2. Put your mushroom, spore side down, on a piece of white paper (or a 50/50 split of of dark paper and white paper to check subtleties in the color). 3. Put a glass over the mushroom and wait 24 hours. The next day you should have something that looks like the picture above. Spore...

Continue reading…

Resources

These are our favorite web resources on various topics, and books which you’ll find on our bookshelves: General Home Ec/Appropriate Tech/DIY Living Mother Earth News How to Homestead Backwoods Home Magazine  AfriGadget  The Urban Homestead Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World Radical Homemakers The Integral Urban House Made by Hand Farm City The Natural Kitchen Country Wisdom and Know-How Wendell Berry’s ess...

Continue reading…

Row Covers in a Warm Climate

ankfully I was able to get a roll of an extremely light row cover material called Agribon 15. Agribon makes a range of row covers in varying thicknesses. Agribon 15 is the lightest and is used mainly to exclude pesky insects. It has also worked with the skunks, who seem unwilling to poke through the flimsy fabric. Those of you in colder places should use a heavier cover to retain more heat. I drilled holes in the corners of the beds and bent som...

Continue reading…

My Big Fat Greek Squash

Every time I visit my mom, her Greek neighbor pops over the fence to offer me seeds and plants. He visits Greece each summer and comes back with seeds for plants whose names he can’t translate into English. As a result I always have a few mystery Greek vegetables growing in the garden. This spring he gave me a squash seedling he had propagated. It grew into a massive vine and produced two winter squashes whose weight exceeded the capacit...

Continue reading…

CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

I’ve been experimenting with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard. It has a couple of nice features: It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles. When you fold it up it takes up no more space than a...

Continue reading…

Laundry to Landscape Legal in LA

ming that you don’t need a permit within LA city limits for “a graywater system in a one or two-family dwelling that is supplied only by a clothes-washer and/or a single-fixture system.” Though, confusingly, it also goes on to say, “Any alteration to the building or plumbing, electrical or mechanical system requires a permit.” I guess we shouldn’t expect clarity from a department that can’t seem to get a...

Continue reading…

Seedling Disaster!

“No one talks of failure as anything but shameful; this is wrongheaded and foolish . . . Mistakes are synonymous with learning. Failing is unavoidable. Making is a process, not an end. It is true that deep experience helps avoid problems, but mainly it gives you mental tools with which to solve inevitable problems when they come up.” -Tom Jennings, as quoted in Mark Frauenfelder’s excellent new book, Made by Hand: Searching f...

Continue reading…